Scherzer headed to Mets, likely to debut versus Nats

Max Scherzer is going to be a Met for at least the next two years, possibly three. He’s going to make more money each of those years than anyone who has ever played baseball has made. And he’s almost certainly going to make his New York debut against the Nationals franchise he helped lead to their first championship.

Happy Monday, everybody!

What was percolating late Sunday night was finalized early this afternoon: Scherzer is signing with the Mets, a massive three-year, $130 million contract that includes an opt-out provision, according to multiple reports. At more than $43 million per season, Scherzer will be the highest-paid player in the sport by a longshot. And he’ll be that through age 40, when this new deal expires.

It’s a fairly shocking conclusion to what turned into a pretty quick free agency period for the three-time Cy Young Award winner, who was motivated to sign this record-setting deal before the current collective bargaining agreement expires late Wednesday night, at which point Major League Baseball owners are expected to institute a lockout that could turn the rest of the winter dead.

Scherzer, traded by the Nationals to the Dodgers in July as part of their massive roster overhaul, always suggested his No. 1 priority was to play for a team that gave him the best chance at winning another World Series ring. That fact, combined with the Dodgers’ huge financial resources, seemed to make a return to L.A. the likeliest outcome for the right-hander.

But in swooped the Mets, who under new owner Steve Cohen are desperate to try to turn what has recently been viewed around baseball as the sport’s most dysfunctional franchise into a championship contender again, with a jaw-dropping offer.

New York offered both the dollars and (perhaps more importantly) the years Scherzer and agent Scott Boras were seeking. The Dodgers, Angels, Giants and any other clubs that may have been in the running weren’t willing to put together that combination and convince him to sign with them.

The Mets, to be sure, have plenty of talent and now boast a rotation headlined by Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, who collectively won four straight Cy Young Awards from 2016-19. But they’ve finished with losing records in four of the last five seasons, haven’t finished higher than third in the NL East during that time, just hired their third general manager in a year, have yet to hire a manager for 2022 and have pretty much found every manner possible to make news for the wrong reasons during this prolonged stretch.

Perhaps that played a role in Scherzer securing an opt-out after the 2023 season, giving him the option to leave if things don’t go well. (Or, theoretically, cash in even more if things do go well.)

Thumbnail image for Nats-Park-Dugout-Roof-sidebar.jpgWhatever the case, barring injury Scherzer is going to make his Mets debut in their season-opening series against the Nationals (March 31-April 3 at Citi Field). Depending on their rotation order, he could then make his next start the following weekend when the two teams meet again at Nationals Park (April 7-10).

It’ll become the highest-profile return of a former Nationals player to D.C. since Bryce Harper came back as a member of the Phillies in April 2019. Harper, who turned down the Nats’ deferral-loaded offer of $300 million for a 13-year, $330 million deal in Philadelphia, was booed mercilessly by Washington fans and has continued to receive that treatment every time he’s come back since.

Scherzer’s circumstances include some notable differences - the Nats traded him and made no serious attempt to re-sign him, given the club’s change in direction - but his return as a member of a hated division rival should make for quite an emotional scene on South Capitol Street.

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